Triathlon: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

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Before I go off on a rant, I would first like to say that life is a gift. Life is so precious and I am so grateful that every day I get to see the blue sky and enjoy the beautiful sun radiating on my face. After losing my grandfather a year ago and someone whom I love dearly the year before that, I learned to accept death as a part of life. But I can’t leave this world now, not yet. There’s still work to be done. There’s so much I want to give to this world. I really do want to make this world a better place and I will.

Rhabdomyolysis, Heat Stroke, Seizure, Elevated Troponin I Level, Acute Kidney Injury, Elevated Liver Enzymes, Hypernatremia, Dizziness, Hypokalemia, Hypomagnesemia – these are the diagnosis upon arriving at a hospital in South Carolina. It was during the triathlon collegiate national championship race, when I suffered from a seizure and a heat stroke, along with internal organ injuries (more on this later). It’s a miracle that I am still alive.

I am writing about this mostly as a tale of caution to all the athletes out there who push themselves to the limit every day to make their dreams come true. Another reason is to show my appreciation for the overwhelming support that I received upon my return. Huge thanks to the Michigan Triathlon Team and all my wonderful teammates. I couldn’t have done it without you guys and I am forever grateful for this team.

So what happen? Basically, I push myself way too hard during the entire race. That was how bad I wanted it. It was a very hot day and unfortunately, the men’s race happens to start at noon. Before and during the race I took every step I can to make sure that I was well hydrated and well fueled. Before my swim, I had a packet of GU energy gel, and during the bike I had 24 ounces of water mixed with HEED (electrolyte), which I took consistently over the bike course. During the run, I wore a cap and had my sunglasses on. I carried another pack of GU just in case my energy level starts to drop. As I pass each aid station I would take small sips of water and cool my body with ice. However, it appeared that in the very last lap, the race organizer ran out of water, which may explain my accident.

The race went really well. In fact, I would say I had the best race of my life. During the swim, I stayed with the front pack and was the first group of guys out of the water. I also had a great bike split and reminded myself the entire time to pace well so that I don’t blow up on the run. When I got to the run, I was in a world of pain, my pace was faster than what I wanted to go but I told myself to hold onto it no matter what. Literally, in my head I was telling myself, “you can die once you cross the finish line.” I also told myself, “it’s what you do in the dark that matters” (shout out to Michael Phelps). I wanted to prove to myself and to the team that I am capable of more – that I am faster than what they presumed. During that race I channeled all my rage. That was what kept me going. I was angry about many things – not being selected to be in the relay team, not being placed in the fastest wave, and so on. All these little insignificant things add up. I know I should have talked to someone or the team president about it, but I didn’t want be seen as a whiner, and so I kept it all bottled to myself.

It was the last mile of the race when I had the seizure. I do not recall falling or experiencing any signs or symptoms. All I remembered was racing very hard and the next thing I knew I woke up in a hospital. Everything was surreal and I felt as if I was in the matrix within the blinding white room. Next, I heard a distant voice from Alex, the team president. I’d to take the time to say that Alex is the most amazing human being. I owe him my life and he was there for me every step of the way in my recovery. Of course the first thing I asked him was if I’d finish the race. I was in a lot of confusion and at that point my speech was very incoherent. To my disappoint he said that I collapsed about a mile before the finish line. Note though, that the running course turned out to be a mile longer. Had it been the standard distance, I would have finished the race.

But enough rambling for now. My story could go on forever and a lot people reading this probably gave up by now. If you’re still reading this, congrats you made it this far – more than my race.

In short, after a week at the hospital and after more than 300 needles being poked through my body, I am still alive! I suffered mainly from acute kidney injury and rhabdomyolysis, which is severe muscle breakdown. In this case, the dead muscle cell travels through the blood stream and into the kidney, which can cause kidney failure if not treated. In a week, I have lost 15lbs and still find it painful to stand up and walk. My urine is usually brown or orange. I came in with a temperature of 106. With time I will fully recover. It may take months or years to fully regain function, but that’s okay, I’ve got a whole lifetime ahead of me. If my calculations are correct, I have lived about 28.57% of my life. I still plan on living my life to the fullest every single day and maintain close bonds with my family and all my close friends. As always, I will never forget to show kindness and compassion to everyone I come across.

Lastly thank you to everyone who was there for me. You know who you are.

Michigan Triathlon team, you are guys the best thing that ever happen to me.

“Around here, however, we don’t look backwards for very long. We keep moving forward, opening up new doors and doing new things… and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.”

– Walt Disney


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